Yesterday in downtown Brooklyn, MakerBot unveiled the second generation of its popular desktop 3-D printer: the Replicator 2. Speaking in a bistro next to the MakerBot offices, CEO Bre Pettis was charmingly excited to rip away the black fabric covering the revamped machine. "First of all, it’s just a beautiful desktop 3-D printer," he said.
The Replicator 2 is poised to make desktop 3-D printing a far more ubiquitous technology. The new model is 37% bigger than MakerBot’s original, and prints with a far greater accuracy—100 microns per inch, to be exact (one micron is about as thick as a piece of paper). That means users will be able to print larger, faster, and more precisely than ever before. It’s also more durable than the original wooden Replicator, with a strong PVC and steel frame.
For more advanced users, MakerBot will introduce a dual-extrusion version called the Replicator 2X next year. The 2X is targeted for more sophisticated users—"the hot-rod to the Replicator 2's Honda," said Pettis. Both machines are sleek, black, and framed with neon purple LEDs, in stark contrast to the DIY look of the first Replicator. At $2,199 and $2,799, these two new models are about $400 more than the original. But Pettis says the new price point illustrates the changing status of the 3-D printer, which is being used by many more professionals—e.g., "prosumers"—these days. This is MakerBot, all grown up.
Pettis also unveiled a new software, MakerWare, which is arguably more important than the Replicator 2. Why? MakerWare, which looks about as easy to use as Google SketchUp, will make printing easier for people who aren’t familiar with digital modeling and fabrication. In a demonstration, Pettis dragged and dropped a few forms into the model space, happily pointing out that to print them, "you just click the ‘M’ button."
MakerBot’s first physical retail store—across the bridge, in NoHo—also opened its doors today. There, 3-D printing enthusiasts can hang out, try the new Replicator, and pick up some printed swag. "You know that person who has everything?," asked Pettis, "they probably don’t own anything that came from a 3-D printer."
On hand for today’s announcement was Marty Markowitz, mayor of Brooklyn, who grudgingly added that MakerBot was throwing Manhattan ("that lesser borough") a bone by opening up its first store there. Of Brooklyn-based MakerBot, though, Markowitz was enthusiastic in a way only a 60-something Brooklyn native could be. "MakerBot’s got Brooklyn attitude," he said. "Well, these days they call it swagger."
The Replicator 2 is available today, over on MakerBot’s online store, while the 2X will arrive in early 2013.